823 Pine Street

The Jesse W. Starr school was one of several schools built in Camden during the late 1880s and early 1890s in response to the first great wave of immigration from southern and eastern Europe. Board members chose not to erect the school on Pine Street, east of Eighth Street, using the originally planned design from architect Stephen Decatur Button. Instead, they constructed the school with plans from the architectural firm of Moses and King. The board named the school the Jesse W. Starr School, on petition of the board members from the fourth school district. The school, described as "a fine edifice," did not open until April, 1889, when the grading was finished, as a consolidated primary and secondary school. The board transferred Lettie A. Ward from the boys' department of the Kaighn School, and named her the first principal of the secondary divisions. Maria Hableston became first principal of the primary divisions.

Jesse W. Starr was one of Camden's important manufacturers and leading abolitionists, who joined the home guard during the Civil War. Jesse open Camden's first hardware store in 1845 and later, he and his brother John F. Starr owned and operated the Camden Iron Works, located at Bridge Avenue and the Delaware River, near the present site of Wiggins Park and Marina. He made his fortune by putting carbureted hydrogen into glass, as an illuminator for gas works, all throughout the country, and during the Civil War gave away thousands of dollars to needy families of soldiers. Jesse W. Starr lived on property bounded by Line Street, and Newton and Haddon Avenues, which he gave to Camden City in July 1871, to build a new City Hall. His only conditions were that the construction begin within three years, and be completed within five years, and that "the ground should always be used for a City Hall and public park, and if it should cease to be so used it should revert to him and his heirs." Three years later, Starr gave to Camden the land on which Soldiers' Monument stands, under the same conditions. In December 1883, wishing to own the land free of any conditions on which the monument was located, Camden paid Mr. Starr almost $11,000 for "an absolute conveyance of all the land bounded by Haddon avenue, Washington Street, and Seventh Street. "

In order to economize, the board closed the Linden and Blaine Schools, on June 30, 1932. The school board told the Board of School Estimate that it needed $2,224,000 for construction and furnishing of new schools, and a high school gymnasium. The Board of School Estimate encouraged them to obtain the money from the U. S. Government, through the PWA, for grants and loans. Dr. Neulen prepared a report in collaboration with Mr. Austermuhl, which the board used as a basis for new-school construction. The report included "changes which will be caused by slum elimination, trend of moving population, walking distances to school, etc. These schools are to be combined: Stevens and Central; Starr and Liberty; Blaine and Beideman; Bergen and Powell."

The Correction School

Trustees of the estate of the late J. C. Danenhower complained that boys were damaging their property at 410-12-14 Walnut Street. Mary Carroll, 418 Mount Vernon Street, complained that boys in the Bergen schoolyard at night were too loud. Until September 1932, the only schools that participated in correction classes were the colored schools, Whittier, Powell, Catto, Bergen, and Sumner. However, after that date the board established a special adjustment, or correction class, in Cramer Junior High School. Neulen assigned boys with behavior problems between the fifth and eighth grades to the correction class. The purposes of the class were to segregate the troublemakers who took a disproportionate share of the instructor's time and energy from the rest of the school, scientifically study the individual case in order to solve the problem, and reinstate the child in his regular school as a worthy and acceptable school citizen.

Before assigning a boy to this class, Dr. Neulen made certain that all other methods failed. The school gave the boy warnings, and if this did not work, they called in the parents and informed them of the consequences of his continued misbehavior or truancy. When assigned to the correction class, it was for at least 10 weeks, and during that time, a thorough study was made of his schoolwork and home environment. If his attendance, conduct, and general attitude did not measure up to standards, he received demerits instead of merits, and could remain in the class indefinitely. Once deemed worthy, the principal of the correction school sent the boy to his regular school on probation; however, he returned to the correction school after earning 100 demerit points during the 10-week probationary period. Every Friday, the child reported to the Mount Vernon School with the card signed by his principal, which provided evidence of the child's behavior during the week. An unsigned card meant that there was a hearing, and as a result, reassignment to the correction class was a possibility. During the 1935-1936 school year, there were four correction classes in the Mount Vernon School; three for boys and one for girls, aged 14 and 15, and the superintendent proclaimed how remarkable it was that out of 90 of the most troublesome boys in one school system, only three failed to adjust through these classes.

The third, fourth, fifth, and eighth wards continued to have the highest record for juvenile arrests. The County Park Commission just completed a recreation center in the eighth ward, and the superintendent was hopeful that this might help decrease the arrest of colored boys and girls of the ward. The Polish people in the seventh and thirteenth wards showed considerable spirit by developing programs for their children, with the result that the arrests of Polish youngsters dropped from 245 to 163, by 1935, but there were few changes in the third, fourth, and fifth wards to alter conditions under which the children were growing up.

Chief Attendance Officer, C. Paul Ney wrote in the district's Ninth Annual Report on Juvenile Delinquency, that the number of arrests in the city was declining, but the majority of the arrests were still coming from the same old wards.

Repeated visits to these wards which have been made both day-time and night, lead us to make the following observations ... We find more boys' gangs, both younger and older boys, more corner hangouts, more cheap candy stores, poolrooms, saloons, etc. ... It is also out impression that in these same wards there are fewer agencies working for the benefit of the children. Playgrounds are lacking, the Boy Scouts are not there, and churches don't seem to have much success .... Many of our children are becoming moral imbeciles at a tender age through their street and corner training and a corresponding lack of supervision and moral training at home.

In 1947 Superintendent of schools Dr. Leon N. Neulen created a committee to study consolidating students and closing schools in order to reduce maintenance and operating costs. They brought back a proposal for closing the Mulford School, sending its students to Fetters and Kaighn Schools and closing the Central School Annex by transferring its students to the Stevens School. They suggested not building an addition to the Sumner School which was operating at capacity, by send 109 the students to the Mickle School, and transferring Cooper School's eighth grade to Burrough Junior High, Stevens School's seventh and eighth grades to Hatch Junior High, along with the eighth graders from Fetters School. The Mount Vernon School officially closed on July 27, 1948, and the superintendent reassigned its 496 students to Sumner School. He reassigned Principal Josiah C. Conwell as Principal of the Bergen School, and transferred the opportunity school (the new name for the correction school), located in the Mount Vernon School, to the Starr School.

When the 1947 Camden City Directory was published May H. Platt was the teacher-in-charge at the Starr School.

The Starr School building was used for many years as the "opportunity school", a term which today has been replaced by "alternative school". A curious item worth noting is that the school does not appear in New Jersey Bell Telephone Directories with the other public schools in the city.

At some point late in the 20th Century the Starr School building was sold and converted into apartments. In that capacity it remains in use as of 2008.

The Former Jesse W. Starr School
800 Block of Pine Street
October 30, 2004
819 Pine Street
821 Pine Street
821 Pine Street

Jesse W. Starr Elementary School

837, 839, & 841
Pine Street
821 Pine Street

Jesse W. Starr Elementary School

as seen from South 9th Street

821 Pine Street

Jesse W. Starr Elementary School

as seen from South 9th Street

821 Pine Street

Jesse W. Starr Elementary School

as seen from South 9th Street

Teacher Assignments & Transfers - June 22, 1933

Camden Courier-Post

June 1, 1949

C.A. Bergen School
Jesse W. Starr School

Mt. Vernon School
Kaighn School


Thanks to Fred Reiss, Ed.D. , for writing the defining book on public education in Camden prior to 1948, PUBLIC EDUCATION IN CAMDEN, N.J.- From Inception to Integration, from which much of the above history of the Kaighn School is derived.